Have you ever wondered how Cacao grows and how it is transformed from a bean inside a pod into a chocolate bar?
When we started out we had no idea what a cacao pod looked like or how chocolate was really made. Along the way we have learned a lot and found it really interesting so we thought it was only fitting that our first post was to be some facts about how chocolate is grown and made, so here goes...
How it grows/some chocolate facts:
Cacao trees only grow in humid, tropical climates around the equator.
A tree can take 5 years before it starts to fruit once it's been planted.
It blossoms twice a year and tiny flies (like midges) pollinate the flowers - not bees! Grown in the right conditions the tree can bear fruit for 75-100 years.
The pod grows directly on the main trunk or branch of the tree, not of the end of the branch like most fruit.
About 20-30 pods grow on each tree at a time, and each pod contains around 20-60 beans (depending on variety, age of tree etc).
It takes around 300-600 beans to make 1 kilo of chocolate.
There are 3 main varieties of cacao bean – Criollo, Trinitario and Foresto and a number of subspecies. Solomon Islands beans are a mix of the Amelonado and Trinitario varieties.
How chocolate is made:
Cacao pods are harvested from the tree when ripe, the seeds are removed and are left to ferment and dry in the sun.
The dried beans (see our home page for a picture of these) are then shipped to a factory in Mount Maunganui, where they are roasted, then shelled (a process called winnowing) to get the cacao nibs.
The nibs are then ground (conched) into a fine paste called cacao liquor and some sugar is added to get the fantastic taste we all know as chocolate.
To get the 'snap' we are all used to, the cacao liquor then goes through a process called tempering. This is when the chocolate is heated, cooled, and then heated back up again at certain temperatures (depending on the type of chocolate) just before using. This final process produces the form-5 beta crystals needed to give the chocolate a better texture, if you don't temper chocolate it is very crumbly.
The chocolate we use for our pralines is as pure as you can get, there is nothing else added apart from a bit of sugar to sweeten it. We definitely think this is chocolate at its best!